Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Quiet at home with the man, the kids and my parents.

 And Chuck who did not approve.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Kites? I know the perfect place

We headed off to San Sebastian today.....the perfect place to fly a kite on a blustery day.  We were lucky, the tide was way out, the wind was onshore,

and the kite was brilliant, it just popped up and stayed up there, like walking a dog, but it doesn't want to stop and sniff anything.

Youngest was gleeful.

So now you know.....

There were SWIMMERS!!!! BRRRrrrrr!!!!!!

Down in one corner of the beach, where the mountains have stood on end, 

are these sculptures by Chillida was recommended by a friend and is great, though it is hard to look truly monumental in the setting, with the Atlantic pounding in on the cliffs.  Sadly his museum is closed due to the current economic climate, but......these we could see.

And now you can get a glimpse too!

Hope you're having a great one.


Thursday, December 29, 2011


Today was another Bilbao day, and we went into the Guggenheim museum to see what there was to see.  The very very very best was a group of sculptures by Richard Serra, some of you may have seen one of his works in Terminal 3 at the Toronto airport....big steel job you can walk through.

Here's some videos of the work at the Guggenheim:  one and two....very long with an interview with Serra.  That second one is half an hour and includes some great footage of the installation process, which must have been astonishing.  The second half of the video shows the feel of the work a little more, with Serra's explanations.  By the way, his father was a Catalan who moved to the US....

Though, even if you watch through all of the video, it will give you no idea of the impact of them, of running through them, getting tipped by them, echoing in them....amplified by them.  It is dizzying and amazing and would be incredibly to do with a pair of beat boxers.....

As Youngest said, probably the best exhibit she's ever been to.  She also said that they feel bigger from inside than from outside, which is pretty cool too.


Truly, if you ever get the chance to go....go.  No, make a chance to go.


Outside of the Guggenheim there was this puppy dog:

And in the window of a restaurant, we saw this.... I have NO idea what they mean, but they're pretty fun to read aloud

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oh, and it seems I can speak Spanish!

Spent the day so far walking in the hills and napping.  Not all bad by any stretch!

Since we have arrived in the Països Basques, near Bilbao, and I've gone off shopping and made our way around town and village, I have, to my astonishment, discovered that I can speak Spanish!  The man and the kids have both expressed astonishment at my abilities.

Nice little Christmas present to myself there!  Going to have to study more.  What a wonderful mass of inspiring feedback!

Not kidding myself that it is anywhere near as good as my Catalan, but I can go into stores and mostly succeed, and not get anyone too terribly confused.  It is fun.....

If I spend a little more time on this, I'd get better and better and better.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


We were off to visit another city today, Vitoria-Gasteiz, which architecturally was BEAUTIFUL!  We had a grand lunch as's some pics:

A kind of creepy alligator:

Very cool covered escalators in town:

Someone's entry:

Garbage disposal containers that, as N put it, look like they are ready to rise up and defend the town:

Almost looks like a Banksy this one...

A very cool museum....

Love this balcony:

There is a card museum, this one talks about on it for more detail:

A view over Vitoria in the evening:

Another lovely day!

Monday, December 26, 2011

well, maybe not.

Well, I took a video for you on the hike today, but blogger doesn't seem to want to put it up.  It was a lovely walk too.....we discovered that in this neck of the woods, gates don't mean that you have to stop, only that you have to do them up again so the animals don't get loose.

So, instead here's a picture of an Anish Kapoor scultpture from behind the Guggenheim.......

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy present day

if that's what you're up to!  We are.

Here's a few photos from the day.  I have to say that where we are is exquisite.  Tomorrow I am hoping to push up high enough to get into the woods......

Here's a few photos.  I was stupid enough to forget my battery charger for the camera (duuuuh) so I'll be searching for new ones in Bilboa!

Below is Chuck opening his present, he's a most enthusiastic present opener!

Especially when he present is cheese!

There's no shortage of water here.....rivers and streams EVERYWHERE!

The dog in the house we are staying in, Luna.  She doesn't get walked much normally, so she's having a pretty gleeful time with us, in fact is pretty wildly excited the entire time we're walking.

Lovely bit of countryside around here.

Some more.  Looks almost Swiss to me.


They're all wearing bells too, I'll take a recording of it for tomorrow.

I am DYING to go hiking up into those woods.

All those white dots are sheep....lots and lots and lots of sheep!

And long views....

Then there's some donkeys....burros in Catalan, no idea in astoa!

And ponies and horses....

As Eldest put it, a vacation just by being here!

Hope your day s turning out well!  Ours certainly is.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

well this was calmer


There were Pavos and Pavitos, turkeys and little turkeys...and we scored the last turkey there.....YEAAAAH!

We went for lunch in town, a most unpromising looking bar, but it was OK in fact and the food was fine.  Fairly typical fair honestly.  We took a walk around the town and I wondered why I hadn't brought my camera.  Still not sure why I managed to do that, but there it is.

Got back to the house and took Chuck for a walk alongside the local dog, Luna, who lives chained outside, but who loves a good walk.  She doesn't have Chuck's stamina though, Eldest tried to get her to run with her and ended up dragging her along the road as opposed to being dragged herself.  Chuck, once you get him going, is not too sympathetic to our slower pace.

Some wrapping, some reading, some napping and things are looking pretty good indeed!

Happy Christmas eve to you all!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Good cops. Bad guy.(s?)

We're off on vacation again...YEAH!  My dad rolled in last night and we've driven over to the Basque region near Bilbao for a bit more than a week.  The countryside through the drive was stunning, Spain really is an amazing country and the drive was fine, if squishy.

The downside?

The extremely professional and efficient pick-pocket who made off with my Dad's wallet in the bathroom at a one of those highway rest stops.


There was a very scary moment when we weren't sure if he'd gotten the car keys and the car too, which would have REALLY been a drag rather than a remarkable pain in the *ss.

The cops eventually came, the cards are easily cancelled, the biggest immediate hassle is the lack of a driver's license, so we had to wait around to fill in some forms so that we had something to show any subsequent cops.

They were very nice.  They didn't make us go to downtown Lleida to fill in the forms, they apologized many times and were generally quite civilised.

Poopy, but not major damage.  Fairly major irritation for my Dad, but we're all here and well, and that's what counts.  The guy was most impressive.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


It is something we do really naturally here in this house, and something that I do at work...which seems more obvious as a language teacher.  You see, my Dad arrived this evening, and it made me realise the amount of time that we spend discussing language and accent and pronunciation and syntax etc etc etc....

In an average evening of conversation we will, at least Youngest and I will, easily have 4+ conversations that circle around language use, and if she is reading something to me, as she was this evening, this may well include several minor pronunciation corrections as well....some typical for her age group, for instance the pronunciation of 'Ella Fitzgerald', and some less typical for her age group but relevant to her life experience.

We'll typically range through 2 − 3 languages, both in discussion and use: English, Catalan and sometimes Spanish, but as Youngest is very keen to learn French and will be starting lessons in the new year, to her glee, we did get to that this evening, and even touched on Latin which Eldest is studying and which my dad has also learned something about.  So tonight?  We got to 5 different languages.  English is, however, dominant. Hands down.

It is neat and fascinating that we can have these conversations at all, and even neater that we are all so fascinated by them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seems it takes remarkably little to make me happy

I went into BCN today to do some chatting shopping (quite successfully) and missed my bus by about 45 seconds, which one might think would be profoundly irritating, but it wasn't.

Know why?

Cause it was a beautiful warm sunny day in a beautiful city, I had a nice cafe to go to for a delicious coffee and croissant (though the ones in Paris are better, they certainly aren't as inexpensive for the slightly better quality) and I had a really good book.

A little slice of heaven.

I sat around, drank my coffee, ate my croissant, paid up (2€) and went out to catch the next bus.

When you see the driver with the back of the bus open, and half a fan belt in his hand, it's probably a bad sign, but know what?  It was still a beautiful day, I had just had some really good food, I had an alternative for getting home and I still had the good book.

Sometimes, life is so sweet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A lovely part of the day

Yesterday, while I was shopping chatting my way around town yesterday, I got the ultimate distracter, a friend called up and wanted to know if I could go for coffee....and as the town is pretty darned small, there we were at a table having a delicious cup of just a few minutes later.

She's been having a rough time this year, and I haven't seen or heard from her since Sept...though I see her kids from time to time.....What a delight that was though.  Just love getting a chance to see her again.  Smiled all day.

Now there's a shopping trip worth taking.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Village life, advantages and disadvantages

I went into BCN today to do some Xmas shopping, which was lovely and efficient, though you have to hang onto your wallet with a vengeance, and not so much from the shop keepers.....

Then I tried to do a little more shopping here in the village.  For a bunch of reasons, principally because I very much want the stores to stay in business, and if no one shops...they won't.  It is lovely too, I can walk easily to all the stores in under five minutes, I know who most of the shop keepers are, and many of the other shoppers.

This is all good, and one of the things I love about living in the village, until I need to get a lot of errands done in a limited time frame.

OOOOoooooooohhhhhhh, a good exercise in developing patience that one.  I got three gifts bought in an HOUR, all in stores within a three minute walk of where I live.  Fabulous for my Catalan, but OMgoodness, I'll never finish at this rate!  I even saw the entire assembled off-spring of one store owner and discussed where they were all living!

Not dull, just not efficient!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Went walking!!!

On the Costa Brava....

want to see some photos?

Hope so, cause here they come!

It was a very good day.  Warm and lovely when there was sun and no wind and COLD and blustery in the reverse.  I end with a Dalí for you.....that fish above.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lottery tickets

One of the things I am finding this year that is making me feel both more integrated and more alien is lottery tickets.

These are ABSOLUTELY p.e.r.v.a.s.i.v.e in the culture here.  There are tickets for the lottery itself....the gordo at Christmas, which means the fat one.....the most coveted prize, but every single association gets the kids to sell lottery tickets, and lots of them.  We are at this point selling tickets for the basketball team, the weekly kids community group, Eldest's high school and the mountaineering group.  Actually, that is not the whole truth, because we're not selling mountaineering ones, we just bought a bunch of them.

You see - and this is the part that makes me feel alien to the culture - but just call me a puritanical type, but it seems odd for kids to be flogging lottery tickets.  Faintly Dickinsian.  So we don't ask the kids to sell them.  Also, as I work in the village, and so did the man when he had work, there is an extremely limited market from which we can buy.  EXTREMELY, as there are probably 200 kids in basketball, another 150 in the community centre, plus another 90 selling the high school tickets.....and then the mountaineering crowd.  Talk about saturated market.

So, we buy them ourselves.  Almost all of them.  The ones for Eldest's school we are trying not to, as they go toward her end of year trip and the more we sell, the less we have to pay, so buying the tickets for those is WILDLY illogical.

Sometimes it is these weird little things that make you feel like a foreigner.

Friday, December 16, 2011

After yesterdays honest to goodness despair

Alleviated somewhat by his Justin-ness.....

Seems that in the US anyway, NEARLY ALL research involving testing on chimpanzees will be ended.  A BIG FAT YEAH!!!!!!

 Plus, as a good beginning, let's hope not just a scape goat action and nothing more, but as a fine thin beginning of a wedge, 6 Wall street executives have been charged for wrong doing leading the the economic downturn.  Send 'em to jail, for a long long time, and go find some more boys.  Sadly, it says their suing them.  Personally, I hunger for jail time and a lot of it.  They are criminals.  I'm not the only one thinking it either, now the politicians have to get their pieces of..... together and get some regulations back in place so these cack-headed nutjobs who think their smart but apparently ain't  can't screw it all up again.

And to boot?  It's Friday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I think I'll have to move to Montreal when I move back.

Specifically Justin Trudeau's riding.

Go get 'em!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Canada, I am humiliated


I am embarrassed to say I am Canadian.

Really?  Walking out of the Kyoto accord?

Please, Quebec?  Leave Canada.  Now.  I was born there, I could get a passport, OK.  I'll relearn French.  NO PROBLEM.

OK?  Is it a deal?  I'm with ya.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Painting and thinking

As I cruised through some stuff on line, I found some neat bits and this one:  writers chose their favourite books of 2011  Books loved by book writers and lovers.  Good recommendations, I think, no?

Scraping around about today, trying to come up with something to write about.


It was a quiet day, a good day, a day with a lot of painting in it, therefore a very good day indeed.  What I am working on is fairly secret, let's leave it at that.  It is going fairly well, which I am very thankful for.

What else.  I seem to be posting more political stuff.  I find things are making me despair, honestly.  Despair.

This is a lousy post.  Hold on a bit.  Let me get myself together.

Having trouble, too many things I can't talk about.  A standard blogging problem, all you can think of is the things you CAN'T say, and you can't come up with anything else....don't think of pink elephants, like that.

The man is turning out the lights and signalling bedtime, and as it is 12:30 I may have to give this up.

Going to have to work harder at this tomorrow.


The back is better

I managed to throw out my back a bit yesterday, but today is a bit better, I have re-achieved homo erectus, although I think I am a sub-species (or whatever) of homo erectus incomodus - that would be a latin ending tossed on the Catalan word for uncomfortable.

In a desperate bid to stop the decline of my Catalan skills I went out this evening to a local group of music afficionados, which is nice because it's free and a nice group of people, although as much of the time is spent listening to music it is not the best milleu for improving my language skills, but it's also at a time I can go, so that is all good.

We were doing 'nadals', can you guess that one?  Songs related to Christmas....we ended on a lovely not, the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah, technically for Easter, but what the heck.

Interestingly, one of the women was talking about in the past, when she was a child and the people in Barcelona, on Easter at 10am people would come out and bang together their pot lids and rattle the bars of the balcony railings.  There was then debate about the significance of this with little resolution.

Bona nit!

Maybe I have to do this blog in both languages so I have to practice writing a little more.  Not, however, on a day when I am posting at 12:30 at night. (the music thing goes from 10 - midnight! on a Monday!!! Welcome to Catalunya!!!!!!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Now this is good news!

I think.

They managed a deal for the climate talks in Durban.    Is it a good deal?  I don't know, but at least it didn't collapse.

On a silly note, the dog is snoring, which he rarely does.  Sounds funny.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I think I have to double post

But you know what, I'm not going to.

We got our tree up today, I have to admit that reforming the branches into tree shape was not a part of my childhood Christmas tradition, but tobogganing a tree out of the woods (at an Xmas tree farm) is not really an option here, as there is still lettuce growing in our garden.

The tree is WILDLY overdecorated, we made decorations here, we had decorations in Canada and on the boat, which have all been amalgamated on a rather moderate sized tree....looks .... exuberant.

Kids are happy.  Lovely day.  Lovely lovely day.  Slept in, drew, taught, hung out, walked the dog with a friend and her dogs, cooked, ate sat by the fire reading stories, decorated the tree and sang carols.  One of my students even sang Oh Come All Ye Faithful in Latin!  LOVELY!!!!  he has a wonderful deep baritone voice.

PLUS the good guys just beat Madrid in MADRID!!! JEJEJEJEJEJEJEJEJEEEEEE!!!!!!!!  The fireworks and horns in town are impressive.


Seems poor kids in Toronto aren't going to be.  Thanks Mr Ford, thanks Toronto.   What were you thinking voting this man in?   This is REALLY what we needed?  Comments about the man's size are being resisted here.  Almost.

God it makes me so angry.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Amidst a kind of poo-y morning...guess who found something stinky to roll in and needed a bath before my first cup of tea (at 11am)?  Yup...he's still wandering around feeling misused and confused.

Then I have some rip-snorting ideas for some paintings I want to work on, and I am just here to inform you that that old saw about use it or lose it?  Don't know about that, but use it or it rusts up hard?  That one is T.R.U.E. True!

I knew this was going to be trickly to start with, but this is seriously irritating.

Going high tech on some help for myself in getting this done.

Tree going up next weekend, which is only a day and a half away!

LOVE a super long mega-multi-span poooooont of a weekend.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Next day of the staycation!

Another cultural day today after a very very slow and relaxed start to the morning.

Just about perfect that way!

There is a HUGE Miró exhibit in BCN right now, it has been to the Tate in London and I was jealous that it was there, and then discovered that it has traveled here!  YEAH!

I really adore Miró's work, though the bulk of this had to do with his more surrealist period which is not my favourite aspect of the entire body.  His later huge works with very very simple lines and shapes on them do more for me, though it was fascinating to discover that he really liked the work of the American Expressionists...and it was interesting looking at his work from that perspective.

He was also an ardent Catalan nationalist, and much of his work is political in nature.  Loved it.

We went to the Miró museum, who have quite sensibly made the cost of an annual membership the same as a singe adult entry, so the man and I are now annual members....

Youngest has gone off to see the fall colours overnight....I imagine they will see them in the light tomorrow though....and we're hanging around by the fire cooking and computering.

Still more holidays to come!  I'm happy.



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Should have written this post BEFORE I took the night time cold medicine

Everything is sloooowing down and getting very heavy.

Hopefully this is the last night I will need to take it.  urgh.

I had a brilliant post in mind, but it has faded away on me.

It is amazing how little you can get done in a day when you're on vacation, wonderful isn't it!  Though I actually did work this morning, it seems like a different day.  Helps the two hour nap I had.....kind of divides it all up.

The girls are gunning for mushrooms, they want me to buy them so they can roast them over the fire tomorrow night.  Hard to say no to that, isn't it!

As it is an official statutory holiday here again...(another on Thursday) was hunting day again so no walks in the hills for his Chuckiness who keeps looking at me accusingly.

I really have to post in the morning these days.  This post maybe could be called stream of consciousness, but it's really more like a trickle.

More later. (tomorrow)

Hope you had a good one,


Monday, December 5, 2011

What a lovely day

if only I weren't coughing up a lung!!!!

We went off to Caixa Forum and saw some truly lovely Impressionist works from the Clark Institute in Massachusetts.....(spelling that only took three shots!).

He was part of the Singer family, as in the sewing machines and had lots of money and the two of them had extremely good taste.  If you're in BCN before mid-Feb...go.

While we were there, Eldest wanted to go and see the exhibit about the costumes from the Russian Ballet, who seem to have spent quite a bit of time in Spain.  There are costumes there designed by Miró, Picasso (which seems to be when he met one of his wives, Olga, the ballet dancer) Matisse and more.  Most amazing exhibit.  There were also the costumes from Stravinsky's Rites of Spring, the ballet that caused a riot when it opened.  Radiolab has a piece about it here....just amazing.  This is actually a fascinating piece looking at music, and what it is made of and how it touches us sometimes emotionally and neurologically....the piece about the Rites of Spring comes in at about the 30 minute mark, but it's worth listening to the whole show.

Here it is:

We all staggered home in a roundabout sort of way, doing a wee bit of shopping enroute, then had a fire, a delicious dinner, a game of clue and stories by the fire.

Weekend just keeps going on!  Though I have to work for a couple of hours tomorrow.  Not the end of the world.

Hope yours was a good one too!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

They didn't win

but you should have seen Youngest dodging and weaving her way up the court with the ball!  Something she has been a little nervous to do in the past but gave it a go in a game setting today...very cool.

Youngest and I are both down with nasty coughs/colds, so we were trying not to spread the plague in the car of the nice folks who gave us a lift to the game.  Why kids basketball games have to involve a drive of over an hour each way, I am somewhat confused by, but whatever.

Ever seen Labyrinth?  Good flick that, saw it with the kids this evening.

May put the kids through some culture tomorrow, see what happens.

Christmas is leaping up on us, somewhat alarmingly rapidly.  Good grief!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Well, we all made it to the long long multi-span bridge of a weekend.

And thank goodness.

I fell into bed last night with the ripe beginnings of a cold....rather inevitable given what we've been up to...and I am now enjoying the full rich bubbling nuances of every moment of it.

I did manage to change my work tomorrow so I can go to Youngest's basketball game, maybe the only one I see this year.  Sadly, we have to get up at 6am as it is an out of town far out of town as we will get this year, and it has to be an early game too....

Still glad I get to see her play.

We've got a couple of museums lined up...I've got some work and if I start breathing again, some painting!!!

Sounds like a good one.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Got a book I want to read

A new-to-me Oliver Sacks, The Island of the Colour Blind.

Take me away Oliver!  Looking forward to a ride...enthusiasm, fascination, amazement and awe, all in one papery bundle.

Oh, and this is pretty cool too...about words with no etymology.  Neat concept.  Wonder if they feel alien or orphaned?  Or maybe something shinier and brighter than either of those options.  Unique and astonishing.